There's a derelict chicken shed that borders two fields, close to the house. I suspect it was perfectly placed to allow poultry to wander and peck first here and then there. The corrugated tin has seen better days and the uprights are completely rotted through at ground level, but some of the old elm boards are as iron.
I need somewhere to stick the part-time turkeys, and it was a really good excuse to refurbish another of the sorry huts on the farm. Whilst I write it on the to do list the farm worker rolls his eyes and then sets to with digger, saws and angle grinder.
I go and inspect progress and bring the dogs. Fenn immediately rushes in and sits alert. She knows something's there. Of course, it's full of rat runs, so I keep well back and ignore the possibility of furry critters emerging from the earth floor. But then we all see it at the same time and there is a shared squeak/roar/shout. At waist height, along one of the timbers, a snake slides into view and then slips down to the floor (how does it do that, precisely, and how did it get up there in the first place?) and across to a corner of the shed. It's seriously fat and about four feet long.
It's a grass snake, so not poisonous but as it flickers its tongue and hisses, we squeak/roar/shout again and fail to take a better photo, just in case it's an adder (which I'm sure it's not, but still...). It's all of three metres from our copious compost heap so at some point this month or next it'll lay 40 or so eggs there.
This happened at 5pm this afternoon and every since my scalp keeps wrinkling and my skin shivering - I'm so pleased we have snakes, but must it really live quite so close to the house?